Expat Life In Paris Versus In Panama

What I Miss About Panama

This month in Paris, friends we’ve seen have asked, “Will it be hard to return to Panama? I mean, come on, be honest. Don’t you prefer Paris?”

Yes, in many ways. But I’m also finding myself missing things about Panama.

I miss, for example, the help around the house that we can afford in Panama City. We pay Olga, our full-time housekeeper, top dollar. That’s US$350 per month. For this, Olga runs our household. Not only are the dishes done, the furniture dusted, and the floors polished, but, if Lief needs a shirt ironed, he asks Olga.

If Jack’s white sneakers come home from his day in the park brown with mud, Olga whisks them off his feet and into a bucket of bleach before he’s made it through the front door. I don’t worry that the plants will be watered or that the refrigerator repairman will be met. I know Olga’s on it.

When we arrived in Paris this month, I asked around for a recommendation for someone to come to the apartment to help with the cleaning. I knew I couldn’t afford full-time help in this city, but I hoped to arrange for someone to come two or three hours at a time twice a week.

For this kind of help, you’ll pay from 10 to 50 euro per hour. And you’ll want to be on hand while they’re in your home, to give detailed instructions, task by task, and to review the results. It’ll seem (in my experience) that it’d be easier to do the work yourself.

Which is what I’ve been doing. And, boy, do I miss Olga.

I also miss the space of our 3,500-square-foot home with its shaded back garden. Our 112-square-meter apartment is charming, historic, and quintessentially Parisian. It’s also, I have to admit, moving from cozy to cramped the longer our family of five is co-habitating here.

Finally, I miss the easy access to the beach we enjoy in Panama City. Any weekend the whim strikes, we can take off for a day or two of sand and sea.

Of course, back in Panama, I’ll miss things about Paris.

I enjoy both places. And perhaps what I enjoy most is the contrast.

The change of scenery. The change of climate. The changing view outside our bedroom window.

In both places now, we feel settled and at home. We have friends, routines, habits, favorite restaurants…

This, then, is our long-term retirement plan, to divide our time among a handful of places that appeal to us and that, important to us, provide constant contrast.

Eventually, when we’re able to flip this switch in full, we’ll spend a few months each year here in Paris, a few months each year in Panama, and a few months each year in Istria, Croatia, another part of the world that has captured our imaginations and our hearts and where we’ve begun to create connections.

The remaining few months of the year? They’re up for grabs at this point. We’re thinking Buenos Aires

Kathleen Peddicord

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